There’s lots of “we planned it this way” in the press release, but the hard truth for Toyota is that the sales numbers just weren’t working for a standalone brand. As of today, Scion goes the way of Saturn, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Hummer.
“Scion, established as a separate brand in 2003 as a laboratory to explore new products and processes to attract youth customers, is now transitioning back to the Toyota brand,” the press release reads, going on to suggest that Scion achieved its goals of bringing younger customers to Toyota. But when Scion launched, Toyota had products in its own lineup that were intended to do just that. In the intervening years, the Toyota brand shelved products like the Celica, the Supra and inexpensive pickups in favor of bigger, more expensive cars, and left Scion with odd niche vehicles like the xB and the tC.
It’s best sales month was August of 2012, when it managed to sell 8,400 cars, but most months, Scion was only delivering between 3,500 and 5,000 cars. The car a lot of people pinned hopes on was the sporty FR-S, the twin to the Subaru BR-Z, but last month, Scion only moved 507 in the states, a third of its sales volume in 2012. Scion released wo new products — the iM and the iA — just last year, but those will transition to the Toyota brand.
“This isn’t a step backward for Scion; it’s a leap forward for Toyota. Scion has allowed us to fast track ideas that would have been challenging to test through the Toyota network,” said Jim Lentz, founding vice president of Scion and now CEO, Toyota Motor North America. “I was there when we established Scion and our goal was to make Toyota and our dealers stronger by learning how to better attract and engage young customers. I’m very proud because that’s exactly what we have accomplished.
“We could not have achieved the success we have had without the incredible support of Scion’s customers, dealers and team members, so supporting them throughout this transition process will be one of our top priorities,” said Lentz.
Scion succeeded in building cars that young people were interested in purchasing. It consistently boasted the youngest audience in the entire industry, with an average consumer age of just 36.
The trouble for Scion may have been that young people simply don’t have enough money to be buying cars in great volume, especially during and immediately after the economic collapse of 2008. As recent college graduates struggle with college debt, a soft job market and low entry wages, a brand new car may not be high on the list of priorities.
Scion dealers will bear the brunt of the decision to eliminate the brand. Scion has 1,004 stores around the country, all paired with an existing Toyota store, but dealers invested in signage, inventory and showroom space since 2003. Bob Carter, Toyota senior vice president of automotive operations said, “We believe our dealers have gained valuable insights and have received a strong return on their investment. During this time of transition, we will work closely with them to support this process and help communicate this change to customers.”
The entire brand itself only encompassed 22 people at Toyota headquarters and according to the press release, all of those people will be offered jobs within the larger corporate entity “in Torrance.” However, Toyota headquarters is full of moving boxes headed for Texas as we speak, so those people will be faced with the decision of moving to a new state.
Scion customers will be unaffected by the change. Service will simply transition over to the Toyota store of their choice.
“Scion has had some amazing products over the years and our current vehicles are packed with premium features at value prices,” said Andrew Gilleland, Scion vice president. “It’s been a great run and I’m proud that the spirit of Scion will live on through the knowledge and products soon to be available through the Toyota network.”